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O'HARA'S WEEK 14 CHECKLIST: Lions at Vikings

David Blough faces the same challenge in his second start for the Detroit Lions as every member of the NFL's 2019 class of rookie quarterbacks.

From Kyler Murray, drafted first overall by the Cardinals, to players like Blough and the Steelers Devlin "Duck" Hodges who made rosters and started games as undrafted free agents, winning games is the ultimate statistic. It ranks ahead of passing yards, touchdown passes or any other stat.

The Lions are badly in need of a win as they begin the fourth and final quarter of the season in Sunday's road game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Lions have lost five straight games, including last week's 24-20 loss to the Bears in Blough's first NFL start.

Given the circumstances, Blough had a promising start in is first regular-season game. He threw two touchdown passes on the Lions' first two possessions. His only interception came on a desperation heave on fourth down in the final minute of the game.

Blough is well aware of what breaking the losing streak would mean to his teammates and the entire organization.

"We understand," he said in his weekly media session. "Every week, we're going to give everything we have to go and make sure we win for the city and for each other.

"We fight for one another, and that's what this whole brotherhood and team is about."

Despite losing eight of the last nine games in one of the franchise's least rewarding periods of this decade, the Lions' willingness to fight has not been questioned. That was apparent again in last week's loss to the Bears.

The Lions took a 14-7 lead on wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.'s touchdown catch with 4:12 left, and they never trailed after that until the Bears scored the winning TD with 2:17 left in the game.

Although the Vikings' defense has been tough for the Lions to crack in recent seasons, it rates a notch below the Bears in most categories.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford passed for 364 yards and four TDs in the Lions' 42-30 loss to the Vikings earlier in the season at Ford Field.

Blough thinks he should benefit from having a game under his belt, and he doesn't expect to operate with a limited game plan because of his inexperience.

However, the Vikings might have a better line on him from having seen him play against the Bears.

"People will see what you do well, and what you don't do well," Blough said. "I think we'll use our full inventory and playbook. Bev (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) has done a fantastic job all year playing to his players' strengths.

"He's a big believer in the quarterback needs to be comfortable with what he's calling, so we have conversations about that."

Series history: The Vikings have a four-game winning streak for a 75-39 lead with two ties.

2019 Game 1 rewind: Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw four TD passes, and running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 142 yards and two TDs in the Vikings' 42-30 win in Week 7. Stafford threw four TD passes for the Lions.

Vikings playoff path: With an 8-4 record they control their own destiny for a wild-card spot. They have a favorable schedule. Sunday's game with the Lions is the first of three home games in the last four. They play the Rams (7-5) on the road next week and play the last two at home against the NFC North rival Packers (9-3) and Bears (6-6).

Vikings focus – rookie runner: Alexander Mattison was Alexander the Great with the way he closed out his career at Boise State. He rushed for an even 200 yards in his last two games against Utah State and Fresno State.

That made enough of an impression for the Vikings to draft Mattison in the third round. Mattison has been good as the backup to Cook.

Mattison has played all 12 games – all as a backup – and rushed for 416 yards with one TD and an average of 4.6 yards per carry. He's had double-digit carries in only three games – 12 for 58 yards vs. Oakland, 14 for 63 yards versus the Eagles and 13 for 61 yards vs. the Redskins.

Mattison had a season-high 27 snaps in last week's loss to the Seahawks because of a shoulder injury that knocked Cook out of the game. The injury could open the way to more playing time for Mattison.

Cook has carried most of the running load, and he should. He's already set career highs for rushing yards (1,056), rushing TDs (12), receptions (48) and receiving yards (490).

Head coach Mike Zimmer was asked if Mattison has exceeded expectations.

"Yeah, probably," Zimmer said. "We thought he was going to be good when we drafted him. We didn't know probably how good he was, I guess. We feel like we found one there."

Prediction: They eye test and the won-loss records – 8-4 for the Vikings, 3-8-1 for the Lions – lean toward a big win for the Vikings. So does the reality that the Vikings are in the hunt for the NFC North title, while the Lions are doggedly hunting for a win.

But the numbers say otherwise. The Lions' eight losses have been by an average of 5.5 points – seven points at home vs. 4.5 on the road. The Vikings won by 12 in Week 7 at Ford Field, and the winning margin was padded by a TD with less than two minutes left.

Pick: Vikings 30, Lions 20.

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